Following safety rules that help prevent the spread of foodborne illness is important year-round, but during the hot, summer months when people are celebrating with outdoor picnics and cookouts, it pays to be extra careful.
“Bacteria that causes foodborne illness thrives between the temperatures of 90 and 110 degrees, which makes our foods more susceptible to contamination” said Amanda Horn, a Registered Dietitian and Family & Consumer Science Educator for the Oklahoma County OSU Cooperative Extension. “During outdoor picnics and cookouts, people’s hygiene habits may also be more lax as they get into the spirit of fun and celebration and perhaps forget to wash their hands as often as they need to or leave food out too long.”
Summer cookouts can be a breeding ground for all types of bacteria, but Horn stressed germs will have less of a chance if a few appropriate measurements are taken.
Cooking meat to the proper temperature is an important factor for having a safe cookout. “It’s very important to use a meat thermometer when cooking out”, Horn emphasized. “Meat may appear done when it really is not. Using a thermometer not only tells you the meat has cooked enough to be safe from bacteria but also lets you know it hasn’t been overcooked.
Horn listed the following as safe minimum internal temperatures for cooking meat: ground beef, 160 degrees; steaks, 145 degrees; poultry, 165 degrees; and hot dogs, 165 degrees (steamy hot all the way through).